Israel-Hamas Conflict Gone Beyond War To Terrorism – Pope Francis

Pope Francis met separately with Israeli relatives of hostages detained in Gaza and Palestinian inmates in Israel on Wednesday, saying both sides “suffer so much.”

The 86-year-old pontiff appealed for peace prayers at the close of his weekly audience at the Vatican, adding of both parties, “They suffer so much, and I heard how they both suffer.”

“Wars do this, but here we have gone beyond wars. This is not war, this is terrorism,” he added, without specifying whether he was referring to the October 7 attack on Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas, Israel’s military operation in Gaza launched in response, or both.

Last week, the Vatican said the pope sought to demonstrate his “spiritual closeness” at the private meetings, which would be “exclusively humanitarian in nature.”

Rachel Goldberg, whose 23-year-old son Hersh Goldberg-Polin was abducted by Hamas, said after the meeting that the Pope “has a lot of influence.”

“He’s very respected in the Muslim world, in the Jewish world, really irrespective of religious background. So I think that when he speaks the world really listens,” she told journalists in Rome.

The delegation was calling for the Red Cross to be allowed access to the hostages and “we feel the Holy Father has the influence in the world to make those things happen”, she said.

“I felt his love and his support and I believe he will do everything he can to help us,” said Goldberg, who added that her son had been seriously injured during his capture.

She was one of 12 captive families represented during the meeting with the Pope.

After weeks of all-out war, Israel and Hamas struck a compromise on Wednesday that allows at least 50 hostages and dozens of Palestinian detainees to be freed, while also granting beleaguered Gaza residents a four-day reprieve.

“I’m not counting hostages being freed in this deal until I see them walk over the border and see them embraced safely,” Goldberg said.

According to the Israeli government, Hamas gunmen carried out the worst cross-border attack in Israeli history on October 7, killing around 1,200 persons, the majority of whom were civilians.

Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups also kidnapped an estimated 240 Israelis and tourists, including elderly and young children.

In reply, Israel conducted a massive bombing campaign and ground offensive in Gaza, killing 14,100 people, predominantly civilians and thousands of children, according to the Hamas administration.

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